Local Coordinator Shares His Lifelong Love For Cultural Exchange

When you become one of the thousands of families that host an exchange student each year, you may wonder, “Why isn’t everybody doing this?” For host dad Mike Carroll, it was that feeling that led him to join STS Foundation as a Local Coordinator, where he has gone on to give other families in his community the gift of a new culture and perspective. He shares his experiences both as a host and a Local Coordinator, and how it’s much more than culture that is exchanged when you welcome a young person into your community.


“My family has hosted foreign exchange students since before I was born. When my mother was a high school student her family hosted students. When I was in high school my family then hosted again. The first two students that we hosted back in the 80s are still in contact with us to this day. In fact, eight years ago my wife and I hosted the son of the student that we hosted in 1984. My wife and I and our kids have hosted seven students ourselves. These students have come from five different countries. It always seemed like when we were hosting we were trying to talk other families into hosting, so I was asked to become a Local Coordinator (LC). I am now in my ninth year as an LC and have placed close to 130 students from around the world during that time. It is incredibly rewarding because I get to see these kids live out their dream of being an American high school student for a year. I also get to see the great personal enjoyment that the host families gain from the experience. While I have families that only host once, most of my families host multiple times like my family. I currently have a family that is hosting their 14th student.

These exchange students bring something to their host families, schools, and communities that can not be taught from a book or learned by watching a video. They open up the world to their communities. American students often do not travel as much as European students so they may never have the opportunity to meet someone from Sweden, Austria, Italy, or another country. Without these exchange students, the world is very small, especially in rural communities where I place students. I have had multiple host families that have traveled after hosting to their student’s home country, and many have told me that this was the first time they traveled to a country other than Mexico or Canada.


Hosting is not just a one-way road where the student provides something to the family and the community and gains nothing from the experience. As a local coordinator, I have witnessed with my own eyes students arrive from their home countries as very shy and nervous young people. They are unsure of their surroundings and can become homesick. Many, however, become involved in their school community and their host family and those feelings of insecurity vanish quickly. It is amazing when I hear from the student “I feel like I have been here my entire life.” or “I have two families now.” Those same insecure students often leave at the end of their exchange year as a changed person. They have gained a year of knowledge, but they have also gained self-awareness, and maturity, and have gained a belief in themselves that would have taken years otherwise.


As both a Local Coordinator and host family I can not recommend hosting strongly enough. I have so many amazing memories of my time involved with this program, too many to mention. I don't have one favorite memory, because there are so many and they are so numerous. I feel like I am a foreign exchange student evangelist because I could talk to anyone about hosting and know that if they did it it would be life-changing not only for them but also for the student.”

Don’t miss out on the opportunity to give your community the incredible opportunity to learn about a country and culture firsthand. Join the STS Foundation team today and help in our mission to foster greater mutual understanding in our world and to empower young people to grow through the power of cultural exchange! Learn more about becoming a Local Coordinator.

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Local Coordinator Shares His Lifelong Love For Cultural Exchange

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